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The Philippine military condemned on Wednesday the twin attacks by suspected New People's Army rebels on two plantations in Bukidnon on Tuesday night, describing the raids as violation of human rights. In a statement sent via e-mail, Armed Forces spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the attacks violate Chapter III, Section 4, Item 2 of RA 9851 or the Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes against International Humanitarian Law which defines one of the 'war crimes’ as the intentional attack against civilian objects or non-military personnel, and/or properties.
"It is also a clear and deliberate violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL) to which the NPA is one of the signatories," Burgos said.
"The chief of the AFP Human Rights Office, Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, is already looking at possible cases to be filed against the rebel group for violating provisions under RA 9851," he added.
On Tuesday, NPA rebels attacked farms of two agro-industrial firms—Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines—and set up checkpoints in three Bukidnon towns, killing a security guard and wounding two others.
According to Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, first to be attacked around 6:30 p.m. was the plantation of Del Monte Philippines at Camp Phillips in Manolo Fortich town.
Osias said about 50 rebels on board three vans and a forward truck conducted the raid, killing a security guard and wounding two others. In addition, the rebels burned a tractor and a truck sprayer and stole other valuables inside the compound, he added.
Ten minutes later, about 20 rebels swooped down on the plantation of Dole Philippines in La Fortuna village in nearby Impasugong town, Osias said. Further, Osias said the rebels set up checkpoints in Sumilao town where passersby, including three policemen, were reported to have been divested of their valuables and service firearms. “This is a crime against humanity and violation of the international humanitarian law…They should not be attacking civilians, they should not be hitting civilian targets,” he said.
'Grave damage to the environment'
A local communist spokesman, however, commended the attackers.
"The punitive attacks against the multinational plantations have long been demanded by the indigenous people and peasant masses in Bukidnon and other parts of Mindanao whose ancestral lands have been seized, plundered, despoiled and poisoned by big foreign multinational corporations," said NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge "Ka Oris" Madlos.
Madlos said the raids were "measures against the multinational corporations whose operations in the province are among the root causes of the massive flooding in Cagayan de Oro in the aftermath of Typhoon Sendong in December 2011."
"This is one way of delivering justice to the 2,000 people who died in the floods," he said."We have been calling on the owners and operators of these plantations to reorient their businesses and stop the expansion of their plantations in Mindanao. These plantations have caused grave damage to the environment."
But Burgos maintained that the two plantations provide jobs to the people.
"We see this recent NPA-initiated violent activity as one of their ways to sabotage the livelihood of our people in the community, and our country’s economic development," he said. Tightened security measures
For its part, Del Monte said they are beefing up security measures, even as its operations were not stunted by the attack and assets secured.
“Assisted by the PNP (Philippine National Police), military and local governments, the company has tightened security measures to ensure the safety of its workers and the surrounding community,” Del Monte said in a statement.
“Company operations were not affected by the incident. Del Monte’s key assets at the plantation and cannery have been safely secured,” it added.
Del Monte also said it had no idea to the reasons behind the rebel group's attack.
“The incident is truly unfortunate, and Del Monte management is unaware of the reasons why the rebels committed such acts of violence,” the company said.
Del Monte has been operating in Bukidnon province for 87 years now, employing over 20,000 people across 10 municipalities. — with Siegfrid O. Alegado/RSJ/KBK, GMA News